How 'Survivor' and 'The Amazing Race' Got Good Again
Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" on our list of reality franchises that needed to be benched. At the time, both shows deserved to make that list as they were each coming off career-worst seasons filled with boring characters (Brandon Hantz, anybody?), unimaginative challenges (setting up beach umbrellas... really?!), and a general lack of tension. Rather than watch these once-great shows continue to stumble downhill, we felt it best for all concerned that they take a prolonged break and return when they had some fresh ideas up their sleeves. But surprise, surprise: Ever since "Survivor: One World" and the 20th "Amazing Race" premiered in February, both shows have been back on their game. In fact, we actually find ourselves anticipating -- rather than dreading -- each new episode (for now, at least; there's still plenty of time left for these seasons to go south, after all). Here are the notable changes we think have improved both shows:Back in January, we included reality TV warhorses "
We Actually Enjoy Watching (and/or Hating) the Contestants
We're not sure who deserves credit for lighting the fire under the CBS casting department, but a hearty "thank you" is owed to that person or persons because this new crop of Survivors and Racers has yielded some great characters. Over on "Survivor," you've obviously got to go with Colton as the season's breakout star, even if his presence on the show was just cut short due to an appendectomy scare. Granted, we'd never argue he was a likable personality, but his behavior generated plenty of drama around camp, drama that was largely absent last season amidst all the praying and whining. And even with Colton now out of the equation, Alicia is still around to make trouble, Tarzan and Kat are reliable sources for baffling/dumb utterances, that immunity idol discovery has made Kim and Chelsea a potentially dangerous duo, and Christina is a fascinating contradiction -- a contestant who is probably smart enough to win it all, but can't quite seem to get her act together. And sure, there's still some dead weight around (sushi chef Jonah is entirely useless, while Troyzan is just a younger, duller version of Tarzan), but at least none of them is another Hantz relative. Depending on how the post-merge dynamics shake out, we could be looking at one of the most competitive endgames in a while.
While "The Amazing Race" doesn't have a Colton-sized villain, "Big Brother" vet Rachel is an easy person to root against (could she be the most irritating "Race" contestant since Season 3's Flo?) as is her "Mean Girl" nemesis (and Kardashian clone) Vanessa. (We're also glad that those two clowns got eliminated early on. Sorry David and Cherie, you can't replace Jon and Al in our hearts.) And surrounding those two are some truly entertaining personalities, like good ol' boys Mark and Bopper and federal agents Nary and Jamie (though we still aren't sure why they thought that pretending to be teachers was a good strategy). Heck, we can even tolerate Rachel's teammate Brendon, whose only real flaw seems to be his taste in girlfriends. Good casting is the lifeblood of all TV shows and reality programming in particular. This time around, both series got it right.
Watch a clip from last week's episode of "The Amazing Race" right here: